[EDIT: Memory is untrustworthy, a construct of the imagination. I’m wondering now how much of what I’ve told is true, how much figment construed together long after the truth was forgotten.]
In my post Conflicted Over Apocalyptic Witchcraft I come down against the adversarial stance of author Peter Grey’s marvelous book. In doing so I was being disingenuous, I now see. I didn’t mean to be, I really am conflicted. I have more “issues” concerning the adversarial stance than I let on.
This is personal. So personal I don’t know whether I ought to click Publish or not. On the other hand I’ve told others and myself the story so often that it’s just a story. If you’re reading this, I clicked Publish.
So … let me tell you part of my personal mythos and practice know thyself through story.
As a transgendered child rural ignorance caused me much suffering. I grew up I believe in a time before the coinage of the words transgender and transgenderism. I grew up in a place where the word transsexual could never enter my internal lexicon, as linguists call our stock of words and the neural webs that attach word to word, word to image, word to memory, etc. I possessed no such concept as transsexual or transsexuality. Having no such concept, I could not conceive of them: transsexual was literally to me an unthinkable thought. I could not know myself. In the rural culture of Appalachia, I did not dare share my desire to be a girl with anyone, not even my parents. I knew I was different but had no means of enwording how I was different and no possibility of expressing what I did know. Saying to anyone I want to be a girl would have resulted in nothing but humiliation and lasting personal disaster, in that time and place. I knew better than to destroy what life I had.
Bearing the Mark of Cain
At the age of four or five the depressions that plagued me till I came out to myself began. So did the self-loathing: I knew I was different, and amongst children of that age different is bad. I was bullied verbally and physically by others from my first experience of day-care. I was ostracized by my peers and my adult caregivers alike. It was a different time and place from what we like to imagine ours are like. I suspect that things aren’t very different at all now, we only like to imagine they are, but that isn’t what I’m posting about now. —Children internalize other’s perceptions of them. My feeling of difference from everyone I’d ever known was so strong I was certain at that young age that I had some visible mark upon me that meant outcast and inferior. Some visible sign that only I could not see. Something very like the Mark of Cain.
The Cainite Gnostic
This was intolerable and I quickly developed a coping strategy. It was not I that was outcast and inferior, I began to believe, it was the universe itself that was evil and flawed. To any intelligent person this should be obvious, I thought. Misery was only logical and natural. I was an intelligent child, and I came to believe that I was surrounded by people too dumb to see the flawed wickedness of the world or who were willfully blind to it and denying it amongst themselves, denying this obvious fact to my face. I externalized my self-loathing into a sort of proto-Gnostic loathing of the world. I was a cult of one. Soon however universe was replaced by humanity. For I could not for long hold my secret loathing and contempt against the land. I began to walk the hills and mountains every day, losing myself in the natural world. And there are few places in the world more beautiful that the Appalachian woods and wilderness. I made them my true home. Our house was where I watched TV, ate with my parents, and read science fiction. My daylong walks by the age of ten or twelve were my own Cainite exile, and I reveled in them. T.S. Eliot wrote in his Four Quartets of “… music heard so deeply That it is not heard at all, but you are the music While the music lasts.” In just such a way I was the land, the mountains, rivers, trees and rocks, and they were me: there was no line of division in my wilderness isolation, in my exile. Eventually I discovered the stars, planets, star clusters and galaxies. —As coping strategies go, hatred of humanity in general is not a very good one, but it was better than what I’d believed before. To humanity in the singular, consistently, I was gentle and kind as I could be in my misery.
But — such early and deeply ingrained self-conceptions are not easily shaken off: to this day I struggle with feelings of inferiority and of world-loathing. I still bear my personal Mark of Cain and I still feel the original loathing for the universe itself. On a good day I don’t think about these ideas. On a very good day, now, since I came out to myself, colors are literally more vivid than I have ever seen, the pink of azaleas pinker, the blue of an autumn sky bluer than I ever saw before, and an adversarial stance seems a thing of the past, ridiculous to boot. On a bad day my early coping strategies either weigh me down or I flaunt them with arrogance and pride. I have not yet sloughed off the child’s version of the Cainite Gnosis that I invented all alone.
I say arrogance and pride because they were my next coping strategy. To stop the bullying I lost a few fights but bloodied some noses and loosened some teeth in the process. That left verbal bullying. To cope with that I developed an acid tongue. There are many kinds of intelligence and I have average amounts of most, but as for verbal intelligence I’m off the charts. I flaunted my grades and my effortless mastery of every class. —Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not bragging about my little blog here: writing well requires intelligences other than the merely verbal and I confess my writing has its flaws. But wielded as a weapon, my verbal skills around age thirteen or fourteen were invincible. I crushed my enemies with words, trapping them in verbiage and cruelly insulting their every weakness and every blemish. This eventually awed and entertained even them. It became for a year or two a sort of game. The game eventually ceased but the acidic stream of thought — my adversarial stance against all who opposed me, and against the “world”, generally meaning humanity by this time as told above, and even brooding, wallowing in and covering myself with my own feelings of inferority because such feelings are “forbidden” — I, adversary had become as ingrained in me as my inferiority had at age four and my world-hatred at age seven or so. As thought requires a theme, as acid when spit requires a target, my theme was my hatred of humankind. I built up a personal mythos (some of which is contained in this very fragment of personal mythos) of my own superiority and demonstrated as often as possible that same very, very fragile superiority. —I had loved ones, especially the old people of the mountains who are now all dead, but imagining the abstraction of “society”, of the sheeplike herd of the “majority”, I became their opposer. I became their adversary. At least in the world of my mind and in small acts of verbal protest and very minor physical acts of vandalism, I was the universal adversary.
—A tangent, please. I can say universal because the culture I identified with, a culture that was more accepting of some eccentricities and differences than the mainstream, namely the Appalachian culture, was dying out. I became a young “man” without a country, because the mountains were different as other nations are different from the USA today. Neither were the mountains part of the South. —So I became free to oppose whatever time and chance blew my way that I didn’t like. Especially the increasing development that came with an increasing population, the faux mountain culture of cornshuck dolls made by crones from Sedona, and the mass culture or popular culture that came with all the people. —In the area where I grew up, just so you know, the old people are dead now. So is their way of life and so is their greater than you might have expected acceptance of some differences and eccentricities. I was somewhat effeminate and very bookish, but to them I was merely quaar, which meant odd. And that was OK. They’d never have accepted my queerness, my transsexuality. I still deeply mourn the old people. I’m now a woman without a country.
The Two-Headed Hypocrite
What I describe above was not my whole life of course. A life is irreducible to words. Like a normal kid I watched cartoons and later my parents’ TV shows, I went fishing with my grandfather, I always had a few friends that I hung out with at school, etc., etc. Most of all and in some ways worst of all, I always tried to do the right thing. I’m a deeply spiritual person, so I went to church. What else was there? Thus my prayers went unanswered, and my spiritual longings proving vain I often attempted to turn to atheism and nihilism for comfort but never succeeded. I always till 2011 returned to church, and, after conversion to Catholicism in 2004, to the Church. I know the King James Version and some Catholic theology, so I didn’t come away from Christianity entirely empty.
I was terribly lonely, I love children, and believed that I never would father any. When I met a girl in the final months of college and we fell in love, I married her. We’re still together with a houseful of kids, but I won’t pretend this is an easy thing. I love my wife, I desperately love my children, but had I never gotten married I would no doubt have come out to myself much sooner. This is both a curse and a blessing. I wouldn’t wish away my wife or children and being transsexual twenty years earlier would have been much more difficult. Those times were not our times. That’s the blessing. Yet still I mourn those lost years and can’t seem to stop mourning them. It doesn’t make sense but it’s the truth. That’s the curse. —All this mind-buggering complexity because I wanted to do the right thing. Probably it was the right thing but it’s a hard, difficult situation, I won’t lie. Still, we’re making the best of it.
I’m a member of an occult group one of whose stated goals is to make the world a better place. Intellectually I support this goal. My gut feeling is that it’s all in vain. Still I know — because I always try to do the right thing — I’ll do my best to help them, to make the goal come true.
I am a hypocrite, in short. Either way you look at it, either way I face, I’m a hypocrite. I’m still the Cainite Gnostic whose hand is raised against every man. And what am I an adversary against? Whatever I take a fancy against. And harm done to innocents.
The very name of my blog itself indicates these things. The Way of the Transgressor is Hard. I’ve transgressed an implicit social contract by transitioning into womanhood, and transition never ends. So my transgression never ends. I transgress another implicit social contract by practicing sorcery. Such things can’t be true, is the general consensus. A sorceress does magic. She does magic because she’s a sorceress. There’s no other reason and she can’t not do magic. The transgression never ends.
Meanwhile, I’m still the little pseudo-boy who does the “right” thing. I wrote against the adversarial stance of Apocalyptic Witchcraft even though deep inside, in my deepest parts, I agree whole-heartedly with it. The little pseudo-boy who always does the “right” thing: is “he” the real me or is “he” a veneer, my culture’s lie that I’ve swallowed whole and cannot — or will not dare — kill off?
I wrote Conflicted over Apocalyptic Witchcraft the best I could. I feel I wrote it wrong. If I wrote it the other way around … I’m pretty sure I’d feel exactly the same way.